Swimming was probably one of the highlights of your summer as a kid, but (f you’re like most people) it became an infrequent activity as you grew up.
That’s unfortunate — because swimming isn’t just a fantastic leisure activity. It’s also an amazing way to get fit.
But is it the right fit for you as you get started on your fitness journey? Let’s take a look.
What are the pros and cons of swimming workouts for getting in shape?
Swimming is low-intensity, easy on your joints, and it’s a great life skill to have, too. You’ll have fun, burn calories, boost your cardiovascular system, and learn a new skill all at once.
Although, there’s a downside too. You won’t grow your muscles much from swimming alone, as you’re not using weights. Plus, getting your swimming form good enough to actually swim a decent distance is a lot of work.
Still, there’s a lot to love about swimming, so let’s check out some pros and cons below!
Pros of Swimming Workouts
The pros of swimming workouts are straightforward, and they’re highly alluring.
Not only will you possibly end up with an incredibly lean and toned body (tips on how to get a swimmer’s body here!), but you’ll find an activity that you enjoy.
Here’s what several fitness professionals have to say about the benefits of swimming workouts:
1. It’s Easy On Your Body
Swimmers often report feeling weightless in the water.
There’s no strain on your muscles or joints in the pool. Like, at all!
All the experts agree that swimming is, according to Brett Edmunds, sports chiropractor, “straightforward on your body.”
In the words of Jeff Parke, it’s “a good way for people with joint problems to stay active.”
There are lots of people who need a workout that’s easy on the body, muscles, and joints.
Swimming is perfect if you:
- Have joint issues
- Are a fitness beginner
- Face mobility issues
- Are unable to engage in high-intensity workouts due to poor fitness
But just because swimming is easy on your body doesn’t mean it’s easy easy.
2. It Uses Your Upper and Lower Body Equally
If you’re trying to get fit, then you’ll want to ensure your entire body gets a good workout.
(You’d be surprised how many people work their legs on the treadmill or bike but never challenge their upper body at all!)
Swimming engages your arms, legs, and core. It also gives you a great shoulder and back workout.
Joe Johnson, fitness instructor, says”
“Mixing up stroke patterns (e.g. front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke) is a good way to ensure all muscles are being worked evenly.”
You’re working out your entire range of motion and challenging yourself to find a new way of moving through the water.
3. There’s a Resistance Element
Jeff Parke states that the water provides varying levels of resistance, but your bones and joints are still protected from injury.
You’ll feel weightless, yet your muscles will still be engaged.
Joe Johnson believes that swimming is even better than running in terms of muscle-building.
The air is your only resistance when running, but there’s water while swimming, so it’s more challenging for your muscles.
Will you get totally jacked from swimming alone? Not likely. But it’s a good step toward a toned physique.
4. You Need Very Little Gear
Some workouts require tons of gear to get started.
You even need special equipment for some activities.
If you work out at home, then you may need a home gym or at least a few basics like a yoga mat, some dumbbells, etc.
All you need to get started swimming is a few bathing suits/pairs of trunks and a pair of goggles.
Poolside shoes are optional but recommended.
You’ll need to access a pool somehow, too. Gyms with pools are a great investment for year round swimming.
There’s not much variety to swim gear, so beginners can easily get what they need before starting.
5. It Builds Endurance Like Nothing Else
Swimming uses so many different muscles and ranges of motion at the same time, it can be completely exhausting (which, if you read on, you’ll see is also a Con!)
However, if you can stick through the learning curve of swimming you’ll find it develops absolutely amazing endurance and conditioning.
It’s easily on par with boxing or wrestling, if you’ve ever tried them, in terms of how quickly it exhausts you.
A lot of beginners can barely make it across the pool once at first!
But if it’s impressive cardio you’re after, you’d be hard pressed to find a better challenge than swimming laps.
(Learn more about what results from swimming you might expect after a month or more of workouts.)
Cons of Swimming Workouts
Where there are pros there are always cons to go with them—let’s look at the cons of using swimming workouts for fitness.
1. You Won’t Build Mass
If you want to build lots of muscle with your workouts, then you’re out of luck with swimming.
You’ll need to find some other way to do this.
Brett Edmonds says, “Swimming workouts are not strenuous enough to build muscle strength,” so no matter how hard you swim, you’re very rarely going to grow your muscle mass in any significant way.
Remember what Joe Johnson said earlier — mix up your stroke patterns and your muscles will be challenged in a number of ways.
If you pair these workouts with a proper diet for fat loss, your body will develop impressive definition.
Just don’t expect them to get massive.
For that, you’ll need to supplement with weight training.
2. Building Endurance and Learning to Swim (Well)Take Time
Learning to swim correctly can take time. You need the proper technique for all of the strokes to have a) an effective workout and be) a safe one.
Once you’ve learned to swim, then you may not have the endurance to do it as much as you’d like right away.
It can be tempting for beginners to dive into the pool and do lap after lap, but that’s not feasible.
Swimming uses up a lot of oxygen, so you end up burned out fast.
Jeff Parke recommends, “Build up your endurance in the pool before attempting a swim workout for more than a couple of laps at a time.”
Kate Meier, personal trainer, warns, “ Beginners may hop into the pool excited to start working out regularly, but they’ll find it’s not as easy as it looks.”
But she goes on to say, “Anyone wanting to get into swimming should remember not to get discouraged and realize it takes time to build up endurance.”
Almost anyone can get up and start running, but to have a solid swimming workout your form needs to be pretty good. And that takes time.
3. You Need Access To a Pool
Getting access to a pool is often the most challenging aspect for beginners.
You don’t know where to look! Many public pools are designated for family playtime and leisure swim only.
Check your local gym, as they’ll often have a pool for you to use. And it will usually have lap lanes roped off for endurance swimming.
There are also year-round public swimming pools in some areas that will be happy to have you start your fitness journey there.
You’ll need to plan a commute to get to the pool, and that can be inconvenient for some people.
Some pools will be a long drive away, and that’ll add extra time that you’ll have to set aside for your workout.
4. It’s Exhausting
While swimming is easy on your body in some ways, It’s still going to exhaust you.
You’re exerting every muscle in your body and swimming against the force of the water, so you end up out of breath extremely quickly
As stated earlier, you can build endurance with time, but this isn’t an easy workout if that’s what you’re looking for.
That can be disappointing to people who wanted a workout that would have no effect on their energy levels afterward.
You’re going to be drained once you start a regular swimming regimen.
Main Alternatives to Swimming
If swimming isn’t for you, or you just can’t seem to find a pool nearby to do it, there are plenty of alternatives you can try.
Some of these are great for simulating the benefits of swimming without being in the water!
Stretchcorz aren’t just a tool used as part of an alternate way to work out for people who don’t want to swim.
Professional swimmers often use these to supplement their swimming training when they can’t get to a pool.
This workout lets you simulate swimming on dry land, except there’s a little more resistance than the water offers.
Strechcordz are long, elasticated tubes that you can secure to an unmovable object in your house.
(They’re like resistance bands, but with the specific intention of mimicking swimming.)
You then grip them and start pulling in different ways, almost like simulating swim strokes.
Some examples of strokes are:
- Double arm: You pull straight back and your hands meet behind your back
- Catch: You pull your hands together towards your abdomen
- Exit: Start at your thighs and bring your hands slightly behind your back
- Single-arm: Extend both arms in front of you, swing them back as far as they’ll go one at a time
- Swimmer: Like the single-arm, only you do both arms at a time, swinging them in opposite directions
Stretching & Flexibility Workouts
Stretching workouts are great for building endurance and working out your muscles without any substantial growth.
They’re similar to swimming in this aspect.
Stretching workouts can be low intensity, but you’ll never have that weightless/limitless feeling that you have while in the pool.
Let’s look at the different types of stretching workouts you could do.
Static stretching is the tamest form of stretching. It involves holding stretching poses while standing, sitting, or lying still.
This type of stretching can be uncomfortable and leads people to declare, “I hate stretching!”
But there are lots of ways to overcome that feeling.
One way you can make it more interesting is by consuming media or walking to a friend while you work out.
You can even work out with a friend, stretching various parts of your body every day as a gentle, beneficial workout that can aid flexibility and muscle endurance.
Dynamic stretching works if you want to make things a little more interesting.
This kind of stretching is a little more active and can be done using exercises you already know.
Lunges with a twist, knee to chest exercises, high kicks, and jump squats are all examples of dynamic stretching.
Doing a few reps of exercises like that each day can be a great way to get in some cardio and stretch out your muscles.
There are many different styles of yoga, but most of them focus on stretching, building muscle endurance, and flexibility.
Determine which yoga style you wish to do, then look for classes based on that.
For flexibility and low-intensity work, look for Yin yoga classes and other forms of Slow Flow.
Pilates is a lot like yoga.
It’s a low-impact workout that’ll help with your endurance and flexibility, but it also helps boost your strength.
The repetitive pulsing movements in Pilates push the smaller, lesser known muscles in your body to the brink.
Barre is a form of stretching based on dance.
It’s done in a class environment and is low-impact but difficult.
Many of the poses in barre can be quite challenging, so it’s something to consider if you’re up for that challenge.
It’s done at the ballet bar and poses often have you stretching your body in new and unique ways with lots of leg extensions and arm raises.
Vasa Trainer Workouts
If you want to swim without getting wet, then a vasa trainer is the next best thing for you.
It’s a swimming training bench that lets you replicate the form and motions of swimming.
These aren’t incredibly common in gyms, and they’re pricy to purchase yourself, but if you can find a gym with a vasa trainer then consider giving it a try.
Swimming has lots of great benefits for your heart, lungs, joints, and muscles.
While you won’t build much strength, you’ll build plenty of endurance and learn how to navigate the water.
Unfortunately, it’s not for everyone, and not everyone can get to a pool regularly. That’s fine!
There are plenty of ways to get the benefits of swimming without actually getting into a pool.
While you’ll never find a workout that fully replicates swimming, you can come pretty close with some of the alternatives above.
And whatever you pick, make sure it’s something that you enjoy and are comfortable with.
For more, check out the:
Hope this helps!